The spread of the Internet and other digital technology has made communication immediate and sometimes almost inescapable. This has meant that relationships are able to develop at a speed that used to be unknown. For some people, this can mean that the road toward infidelity becomes an expressway.
Through online communication and text messages, people are able to be in virtual contact with each other 24 hours a day. The sense of closeness that this creates, as well as the sheer volume of communication that can happen over a short period of time, means that people can go from being total strangers to intimate friends with remarkable quickness.
Distance, Anonymity Allow People to Take Risks
Sometimes, that intimacy can become inappropriate almost before the participants realize what is happening. The speed with which a relationship progresses can leave the participants with relatively little time to take stock of the situation and to decide if it’s really what they want to do.
And even when people do realize that their interactions are becoming distinctly flirtatious and potentially sexual, the anonymous or at least indirect nature of online or text communication often means that people are more willing to take risks and to feel detached from what is happening.
The anonymous nature of such communications also paves the way for people who are consciously seeking sexual encounters. With strangers, or even with long-lost acquaintances, we are able to play up those aspects of our appearances, personalities and lives that are the most attractive. It is easier to exaggerate emotions as well, and to encourage the rapid progression of a relationship.
Online Relationships Enable Projecting and Fantasy
Furthermore, it is often easier to project our own thoughts and desires onto an online acquaintance than onto someone we encounter face to face. Online friends often become a combination of what they present to us and what we imagine. When you meet an online friend in person for the first time, there is often a disconnect between your impression of that person and the reality, but this typically has as much to do with your own projecting as any misrepresentation on the part of your acquaintance. When two people never meet face to face, their fantasy-assisted impressions of each other can persist and foster rapid intimacy.
Research tells us that the workplace is still the most common place for affairs to begin, which may indeed be the case. We spend a great deal of time at work and share a large part of our lives with our coworkers that we don’t share with our romantic partners. However, it is worth wondering whether these data take online affairs—and the various forms that they can take—into account. The detachment, the anonymity, the fantasy element and the deniability of the online world makes it ideally suited to infidelity.
Deniability of Online Affairs Becoming Less Plausible
For many people, the deniability in particular is huge. The virtual nature of online affairs allows people to convince themselves that they are doing nothing wrong while the affair is happening and to also deny wrongdoing to a partner or spouse if their shenanigans are suspected or discovered. It is becoming harder for cheaters to get away with this excuse as the condemnation of online affairs gains consensus, but that doesn’t mean cheaters don’t continue to try.